It became quite apparent during my BG Fitting last year that I needed new shoes. I won my old shoes in another blogger’s contest, a pair of carbon Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III’s. While they’ve been fantastic shoes, they were advertised as a size 12 but 12-1/2’s were shipped. They were, without a doubt, too big. Even so, I made them work for more than a full season and while I may have lost a little bit in performance because every pull on the backstroke was preceded by some slack being taken up first before my foot hit the top of the shoe, they were much more comfortable than the mountain biking shoes they replaced.
Now, I won’t lie, I was awfully tempted to head off to Nashbar to save some cash, then just try to transfer the Look cleat placement from one shoe to the next (my left foot requires a bit of an odd angle to the cleat to get my foot, leg, knee and quads to operate efficiently – my right foot is perfectly square). Having put somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles on those P.I.’s, I was fairly confident that I’d have been able to work the cleats out over time. On the other hand, I really prefer to shop for something as important as shoes at my local shop. The owner, who has more than 40 years experience, knows me. He knows how I ride and what my performance expectations are so his knowledge makes up for my ignorance.
I decided to go to the shop and forgo shopping online, figuring I’d spend quite a bit more but I’d get exactly what I needed. See, I have another minor problem: I have short toes. My foot from my heel to the ball, is a size 11, but because of my short toes, my foot technically measures to a size 10 to 10-1/2 but if I buy my shoes to the overall size, the arch will be in the wrong place and believe me, that causes a ton of pain and a lot of foot injuries. While not insurmountable, this is a lot to keep straight, especially when I can’t try the shoes on before I buy them… Shoes often run big or small, so ordering the wrong shoes could mean a number of delays. Worse, I’m one of those who would try to “suck it up” and live with what was shipped rather than go to the trouble of sending shoes back for another, better fitting pair – which would lead to unnecessary pain and suffering (I ran through that for almost a year). Sure enough, Matt (our LBS owner) got me a smokin’ deal on a pair of ’12 Pro Road Carbon Composite shoes – better than 35% off the ’14 model which run $275.
So, they came in last week, Tuesday I think, and I picked them up on Friday and had the Look Keo cleats installed and aligned at the shop (Look Keo cleats [as with most road cleats], should be aligned by a pro so that your feet, ankles and knees line up properly – and stay in line – while you pedal).
I appreciate the strap and ratchet buckle system because they can easily be tightened or loosened on the fly, with one hand – which I had to do yesterday as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, I cranked them down way too tight before I left so I had to loosen them up when my feet started going numb after only three miles (chuckle – hey, I figured cycling shoes were like hockey skates, the tighter the better). After 40 miles, my feet were still feeling quite awesome but they started going numb again after the last eleven. This is, most assuredly, due to the middle Velcro strap being too tight (I rode the trainer Saturday in standard summer cycling socks but wore my thick wool socks for my ride on Sunday).
Now for the important “stuff”… I tried to find out the stiffness of the sole on the Pearl Izumi’s and the best I could come up with was a 9 on the “stiffness index”. The new Specialized Road Pro shoes are measure 11 according to the Specialized website, and I could definitely feel the difference – at least that, coupled with the fact that the shoes fit right – or a bit tighter around my foot. As is so often the case with upgrades, I doubt my overall speed will increase at all but I should be able to hold a better speed over a longer distance a little easier. I don’t doubt that this will be the case, with one exception: Climbing. I can climb like a monkey in the new shoes because there is no slack when I’m pulling up on the backstroke. I mentioned that earlier – well, in terms of climbing it makes a huge difference. To be clear, I’m only going to be able to climb as fast as my lungs and legs will let me, but I can feel a level of efficiency that is next-level awesome.
I wrote this post a week ago, but I delayed posting it so I could get a hundred miles or so in them. I put in a fifty miler on Sunday – my first ride in them and my first decent ride of the year – and my feet numbed up like crazy. I had them cranked down too tight. It took them out again on Tuesday, loosened up the straps a touch and made it fifteen miles before they numbed up again.
I also noticed a problem… When I had my cleats aligned and set at the shop, they use special alignment blocks that are supposed to line the cleats perfectly so that your feet align on the pedals in a way that gets the whole leg, all the way up to the quads, involved and perfectly aligned. I know my feet have to be perfectly straight on my pedals (parallel with the frame) or my feet go numb – there is no room for error. After the fitting, my left foot toed out at the heel and my right toed in. I noticed this within the first few miles but I tried to ignore it, placing my trust in the fitting. I’ve gone this route before – opting to wait rather than follow my instincts and fine-tune the cleat position – and I put off comfort for months. This time I learned my lesson. I’ve got long rides planned for tomorrow afternoon and Saturday so I’ll definitely know where I’m at come Monday.
UPDATE: 45 Hard minutes at lunchtime on the trainer – no numbness, no pain. It’ll take the longer ride to sort out whether or not I need any more tinkering, but for now I’m good. By the way, I failed to mention earlier in my post that A) I am meticulously finicky when it comes to my feet and B) I use the gray Keo Classic cleats (9 degrees of float) – even so, I still need them just right or I’ll feel it. Thanks to SaltyVelo for the comment.